Side Talks with Girls/Chapter 21
THE YOUNG WIFE'S FIRST YEAR
ERY many of my girls were last June's brides, and yet they have been loving and kind enough to ask that they may still be on the list to which they belonged before the title of "mistress" was put before their names.
As the days go by it dawns on the mind of the young wife that the man she loves is regarding her no longer as an angel, no longer as a bit of Dresden china, and, just at first, she is surprised. Nobody has told her that the first year of her married life would be the most difficult one. During that time she must learn what it is to be a companion to her husband. She must remember that she has entered into his life, that she must be his comrade through good fortune and through bad, and encourage him to look at the best side of life and always to hope when it is dark for sunshine in the future. The years or months of courtship have not made these two people acquainted with each other. The little bit of temper that was so fully concealed, the habit of saying some hasty little word that was subdued, and the undesirable method of being unpunctual and a bit careless that was hidden—all these are gradually discovered during the first year of one's married life. And no matter how much a wife may suffer (and she certainly will) she must learn to control herself, and to bear as much as possible with her husband's weaknesses. The advanced woman may think that this sounds very weak and not at all progressive. Perhaps it is not, but very certainly it is the only way that one can become a good wife, and a happy one.
HIS LITTLE WAYS
Perhaps the husband you so much love is inclined to be untidy; to throw a scarf there and a piece of soiled linen here; to lay a book down where it does not belong, and to leave a pile of photographs in disorder, so that it really requires some trouble to arrange them. Now the wisest thing to do is to say nothing about the careless ways, but after the lord and master has departed to take a little time to put everything back in its place. It is much better to give that time and that little extra work than it would be to find fault, for while the first words of fault-finding might be listened to with a certain amount of grace, the next might be met with frowns and the next with disagreeable words. And then just as certain will come the first quarrel.
And when two people who love each other quarrel they can say more bitter words to each other than any people in the world. Your husband will go away feeling that you do not care for him; you will cry until your head aches, and all because you refused to take a little bit of trouble. Think of the trouble that he takes for you; think of the many hours when business cares are upon his shoulders about which you know nothing; and thinking of this remember that all he asks of you is to be a good housewife.
THE FIRST QUARREL
It will surely come. Two healthy people are bound to differ about something, and all that I can advise you to do when it does appear is to say that you are sorry and you hope that it will never happen again. No matter if you are in the right, do this. You are in the wrong for quarreling, and you can apologize for that. Be sure that your husband will find out where he was wrong, and after your little request for forgiveness he will make his. Then, when you feel inclined to quarrel the next time, don't do it. Don't set your teeth and close your lips and make up your mind that you will hold your tongue, but speak. A sullen silence is as bad as a quarrel.
If Jack has found fault with you about something you have left undone tell him you are sorry and you will do better in future. Say this with a laugh, and give a loving kiss after it, and to your surprise no quarrel will follow. If you disagree tell him with a smile to find out, when he is down town, which of you is right, but that you don't intend to have any ugly words about it. If things have gone wrong in the household, and he sees the effect without knowing the cause, tell him the reason why. Don't be afraid of your husband. Don't practise any small deceits with him, and then the kind words and the loving words will take the place of those that lead to unhappiness.
YOUR HUSBAND'S MOTHER
I will not call her your mother-in-law. I like to think that she is your mother in love. She is your husband's mother, and therefore yours, for his people have become your people. There have been vulgar jests, ridiculous songs and coarse puns about the husband's mother ever since any of us can remember, but in how many households is the husband's mother an angel, not in disguise, but appreciated and loved? Now, will you take my advice and call her what your husband does? Will you treat her just as you do your own mother, not being afraid to tell her of your little affairs, receiving her as one of your own, and making her feel happy in the fact that she has not lost a son but has gained a daughter, and a loving, considerate daughter? Will you remember this, too—that before you came your husband was all in all to his mother? And sometimes when she comes to see you, won't you leave these two alone, and let them talk together as they did before the two became a trio? Don't make it evident that you are doing this, but go off for a little while and attend to some of your household duties. You will be loved all the better for it, and be sure that if anything is said about you the words will only be those of appreciation and love.
Don't make your husband's mother an utter stranger, receiving her in the drawing-room, and changing all your arrangements so that she may be treated exactly as if she were a formal visitor. You do not do it with your own mother. When she pays you a visit she comes up-stairs where you are busy working, and if she feels like giving a helping hand you take it; if not, she chatters and gossips while you are sewing, and both of you have a pleasant morning. If she stays to dine or lunch with you, you may make a little change, putting some special delicacy on the table. Still you do not treat her as you would a visitor from far off whom you know slightly. And you must not, if wish to retain her love and sympathy, receive your husband's mother in any other way. Listen to her words of advice, think them over, and if you do not believe it is wise to follow them give her your reasons for this. Don't ignore the wisdom that she has gained by experience. Somebody asks, "Shall she be a slave to her husband's people!" Certainly not. No good, loving woman ever was a slave when she did what was right. But no good, loving woman ever treated the mother that she has gained by marriage in the way that I have seen some mothers treated—mothers who wished to give to their sons' wives exactly the same love and sympathy, to show the same kindness and give the same active help that they have always given to their own daughters.
TO KEEP QUIET
Remember that what you learn about your husband's family is to be kept to yourself; that when you married him and took his name you became one of the family, and the little trouble, the little skeleton, is not to be discussed with the members of the family of which you were born. To your sister it may mean nothing that some trouble has come to your husband's brother. You may tell it to her in secrecy, and it may seem of so little importance that she will repeat it to her sister-in-law, and gradually what was meant to be a secret is told all round the neighborhood. The art of keeping to yourself what you hear on each side of the house is one that you must cultivate, for it means the keeping of peace. Surely you would not wish to hurt your husband, and yet you will do it if you cannot realize the importance of silence.
When you enter his mother's house anything that is told to you in confidence must be forgotten when you leave it, unless, indeed, it is discussed with your husband, and the same rule will apply to your own family. Don't imagine that every little frown, every little disagreeable word is meant for you, and do not retail to your husband anything unpleasant that may have happened when you were visiting at his mother's house. Think that she is your mother, too, and give her the privilege of speaking to you as your mother does. I know it isn't always easy to have fault found with one when one is trying to do one's best, but think over what was said, if there is anything helpful in it, and let the rest go. Respect your husband's mother as you do your own, and the respect will beget love and confidence as well as happiness for you both, in the new life and the new home.
THE VICE OF CURIOSITY
It is very ignoble, and before you were married you would have been inclined to scorn any one who told you that you would have been curious about the secrets in your husband's family; that you would have been eager to learn of the trouble that came to one, of the wrong deed of another, or of the mortification to which another member of the family had to submit. Now, my dear girl, crush this desire to know unpleasant things. Make up your mind that you are going to know about each one that which is best, and refuse to let outsiders give you any information about the family into which you have just entered. If some low-minded person (for that is what such person would be) should offer to do this, decline to listen, and if, against your will, an effort is made to tell you, leave the room. At such a time rudeness becomes right. If your husband wishes you to know any of these things, be sure he will tell you.
Put yourself in his place. You haven't told him about the young man who first made love to your sister and then left her; about the uncle who did something that was not quite honest, or whatever else it may be that is one of the family horrors, and why should you expect him to tell you? And is it not inconsiderate in you to make an effort to find out those things? My dear girl, don't soil your mind with such knowledge, and don't lower yourself morally by cultivating and encouraging a vile curiosity. Be eager to know the best about your husband's kin. See the best and tell of it, and when they do—these people who bear your husband's name—some kind act, don't forget to tell those from whom you came about it, and never, no matter what may happen, carry an unkind story about your husband's mother to the mother who bore you. If she be wise she would not listen. But sometimes extreme love makes people unwise, and she might forget to reprimand her daughter for talking about things that it would be wiser to forget. Learn to control your ears as well as your tongue; be only eager to hear words of praise rather than words of blame.
A LITTLE THING
Some morning when Jack goes down town there is a perplexed look on his face, and when he kisses you, you think he does it rather as a matter of habit than desire, and like the loving little goose that you are, you go up-stairs and have a hard cry, concluding that your husband has ceased to love you. Now that is all nonsense. If you have been a wise little woman your husband loves you to-day a thousand times better than he did during the honey-moon. But while he was putting on his coat he remembered some business perplexities, and when he said good-by he was thinking of them. Instead of crying you ought to be glad that he thinks it worth while, in these days when many men are thoughtless, to care to earn comforts and luxuries for you. The kiss does become a habit, but none the less is it a loving habit.
Forget all about the perplexed look on his face, be ready and full of good cheer to meet him when he returns, and in your society let him find such companionship that the down-town troubles will be forgotten, and the worries will be worries no longer, because, after all, the surmounting them means making a home which is a nest of blissful refuge. Don't be afraid to let your husband be familiar with the home. Dress yourself as prettily as you like for dinner, but let him lay aside the business suit and put on a loose jacket, let him don soft slippers, and be as comfortable as he can while he is enjoying his dinner. Let home and you mean rest. I don't mean that he shall forget the word politeness, but I do mean that after the long, toilsome day he shall be permitted to have rest of body and mind. Perhaps he may want to take you out to some place of amusement, perhaps not. If he does, go with good will and enjoy it, this pleasure that he has provided for you. If not, make yourself happy in your home, and make that home a pleasant place for his friends to come. If you do this he will not seek his friends outside.
Most women forget the value of making friends of their husbands' friends. Possibly there may be one or two whom you dislike with good reason. Don't show this dislike, but after a while tell your husband of the faults or the weaknesses that you have noticed, and you two may either form a band to help the man, or if he thinks it wise, gradually drop his acquaintance. No man wishes his wife to be surrounded by men who are not desirable.
It seems to me that your motto for this first year should be that very old-fashioned one, "Be patient." Be always patient, and in time the fruits of your patience will be a happy home, a loving husband, respect from your friends, and respect and love from all who are united to you by the ties of law and love.